Six $200-$260 LGA 2011 Motherboards, Reviewed

X79R-AX Deluxe Firmware

As ECS continues developing its firmware, we’re looking at a product that appears nearly perfect and full of value. Of course, appearances can be somewhat deceptive.

The M.I.B. X main menu provides all of the chipest ratio and voltage controls we require, disappointing us only in that those voltage settings are represented by added or subtracted voltage, rather than fixed-mode values.

The CPU Overclocking submenu includes base and Turbo Boost ratios, along with voltage increases for Turbo Boost and current limit overrides.

Memory ratio, primary, and secondary timings are also available from the Memory Overclocking submenu.

All of those options should be enough to get us to the limits of our CPU, or at least this board. However, the shipping firmware’s inability to support our C2-stepping processor put a wrench in our overclocking plans. ECS did hurry to send us a replacement firmware, which did the trick, but presented us with a couple of other issues.

Yes, the replacement UEFI worked. But giving ECS another shot after our cut-off date for submissions would have forced us to re-do all testing on the other five boards as well. Plus, there's the fact that end-users don't have the luxury of swapping out a new C2-based processor for a C1 chip to flash a new firmware. This is a compatibility issue that'll create sticky situations until all of the X79R-AX boards available include ECS' latest build. The consolation that we offered was a chance to participate in our benchmark suite using the older C1-stepping CPU. We simply couldn't count our overclocking attempts on two different processors, though.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • I like Asrock boards. I have an 880GM-LE mATX and a Z68 Pro3 Gen3 ATX and both are good performance and price-performance wise.
  • hellfire24
    Asrock is dominating both high end and mid range market.extreme3/gen3 1155 is awesome and cheapest pci-e 3.0 sli capable mobo.Asrock FTW!!!
  • Achoo22
    Quite simply, the costs associated with Sandy Bridge-E are higher, in part because of Intel's prices and also because the boards are more difficult to design.

    Since the boards all have vastly superior profit margins, your statement is misleading. Why is everyone too afraid to reveal the truth about motherboard pricing?
  • bartholomew
    ASRock has come a long way!
  • AlexIsAlex
    Would it be possible, in future motherboard reviews, to include a measure of the cold boot (POST) time? This is something that different bioses can be differentiated on, and UFEI offers the potential for very fast boots if manufacturers take advantage of it properly.

    A comparison of the time between the power button being pressed and the installed bootloader starting would be very interesting to me. I was thinking it might be easiest to measure this by having no OS on the boot media and measuring the time to the "please insert boot media" message, but I'm sure you can think of other ways of doing it.

    I'm also informed that on some boards the boot time varies dramatically dependent on whether any Overclocking is enabled, as compared to the stock settings - that would also be worth knowing.
  • americanbrian
    your feature table says the asrock extreme 4 comes with an 8 phase voltage regulator, but the text of article says 10 phase...which is it ?
  • crisan_tiberiu
    ASRock = ASUS :)
    crisan_tiberiuASRock = ASUS
    not anymore, asrock is no longer affiliated with Asus and is owned by Pegatron Corp.
  • memadmax
    I wish tom's would do a "best motherboards for the money" or something close to that.
  • Pegatron sounds like a merger between PegASUS + Megatron (or something like that).